Thursday, February 26, 2015

Missing Sub-Districts in the Canadian Censuses?

One of the key resources we make use of in order to track our ancestors over the years are the nominal census enumerations. In Canada, for most provinces1, we have records of the decennial nominal census enumerations from 18512 to 19213 available to us. In the Prairie Provinces there are also the 1906 and 1916 censuses available. All except for the 1921 census are available on the Library and Archives Canada web site on their Censuses page. There is even the 1870 census of that brand new province of Manitoba.

Yet have you ever run into the problem where you just can't locate the family in a specific census?

You know the family was in the township and county during the census so why can't you find them using Ancestry or FamilySearch?

Beyond the obvious issues of horrible handwriting making transcriptions difficult or the family being missed by the enumerator (it happens) there is another reason ... the pages may have been lost. This is more common in the enumerations prior to Confederation. A good example is the 1851 census enumeration of Bytown4. If you had ancestors residing in the East and West sub-districts then you are in luck. However, if the family you are interest in was in the Centre sub-district then stop banging your head against the monitor or keyboard trying to find them in the census5. The census records for that sub-district didn't survive.

District: 46 - Bytown (town)

Sub-district NumberSub-district Name
444​Centre (census records have not survived)

Yet how do you know if the pages from the census for a sub-district survived the ravages of time? There we are fortunate that Library and Archives Canada has listed all the numbers and names of the various districts and sub-districts. On each of the About pages for each census there is a link to the "Districts and Sub-districts" for that census. Go to the Districts and Sub-districts, select the province in question and a list of the districts and sub-districts will be display.

While you are on the About page take some time to read what schedules have also survived and have been microfilmed (and later digitized). For example, the 1871 census of Canada has all 9 schedules preserved while for the 1881 census of Canada only "Schedule 1, Nominal return of the living" has been preserved.

Tip: Before you go insane looking for records that may not exist become familiar with what records have survived.

1. Nova Scotia didn't start listing everyone in a household until the the 1871 census.
2. Sometimes also called the 1852 census since they didn't get around to taking the census until 12 Jan 1852.
3. The 1921 census of Canada is available for free on Ancestry to those using an Internet Service Provider in Canada.
4. Now called Ottawa. 
5. Don't give up though. Have you checked the city or county directories for a listing for the head of household?

1 comment:

  1. The whole of Gloucester County in New Brunswick is missing from the 1851 census. And of course that's where one whole branch of my family tree lived in the 1800's.